Wednesday, November 30, 2011

News: Delaware agreement with China to provide teachers

Chris here with some more language learning news. This year, about 50 students in two high schools in Delaware will take Chinese language classes taught by native speakers. You can read more about this program in the article below:

Delaware agreement with China provides teachers

German: Narrative Past Crossword

Chris here again. Today I would like to share another downloadable activity with fellow German teachers. Below you will find a crossword puzzle featuring verbs in the narrative past. An answer key is also provided. Enjoy!

Narrative Past Crossword

Narrative Past Answer Key

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

News: Language challenges don't stop South Carolina school

Despite living in high poverty, students at Arcadia Elementary in Spartanburg, S.C, most of whom speak Spanish as their first language, manage to score well on standardized tests. U.S. Department of Education researchers are studying how the school manages to effectively teach so many students to learn English. You can read more in the article below:

Langauge challenges don't stop South Carolina school

Useful Websites: The Guardian Eyewitness Galleries

Chris here with a very useful website that all language teachers will enjoy. Take a look at The Guardian's Eyewitness picture collection. This archive feature pictures from all of the world with many different languages and cultures represented. The collection is vast and the pictures are very useful for stimulating discussion.

Guardian Eyewitness Pictures

News: Surge of Louisiana children choosing French despite growth in Spanish

The nearly 30 French immersion schools throughout Louisiana have had a large influx of students wanting to enroll. This is a peculiar trend as there has also been a surge in Spanish speaking newcomers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. You can read more in the article below:

Louisiana children choosing French

News: New book asks if Canada is truly bilingual

A new book called "Life After Forty: Official Language Policy in Canada" challenges the notion that Canada is truly bilingual. Many people in Canada grow up speaking and learning both English and French. A law that was passed 42 years ago also made Canada officially a bilingual country. However, despite education efforts, only about 7% of anglophones outside of Quebec actually use French to communicate, according to "Life After Forty." You learn more about this interesting book by visiting the link below

Is Canada truly bilingual?

Spanish: Online Translation Woes

Chris here again. Today we have a guest post from Aida Valenzuela regarding issues with online translations in Spanish. If you have any questions or comments feel free to add those below the post. Enjoy!

Below is a humorous account of how literal translations (e.g. online translators, ignoring parts of speech, etc.) can distort meaning and become quite funny. The regional text below tells of a gentlemen who learned English through a dictionary or rather, relies too closely on literal translations. The gentleman witnesses an accident involving a married couple and a police officer asks him to give a report, therein lies the rub.

The gentleman tells the police officer, “I was stop there” when in Spanish he would say, “Estaba parado allí.” In Spanish, parar can be a transitive verb meaning to stop or it can mean to stand. In this case, the witness meant to say he was standing there.

The gentleman goes on to inform the officer that when the husband was seemingly injured and on the ground, his wife yelled, “Honey! Honey! Honey!” In colloquial usage with terms of endearment, one can sometimes use “old man” or “old lady” to affectionately refer to their partner. In the text below, the witness states, “And the woman said, “Old! Old! Old!”. In Spanish viejo does mean “old” but it can also be used in the same endearing context as “old man”.
El hombre que aprendió inglés con un diccionario…

Había un señor que estaba en los Estados Unidos en una ciudad, y estaba en una esquina queriendo cruzar la calle. Un matrimonio estaba del otro lado de la calle y también quería cruzar la calle.

En eso venía un carro muy rápido, y con la llanta pisó una piedra. La piedra saltó y le pegó al marido en la cabeza. El señor se desmayó y la señora histérica trataba de despertarlo y nada.

En eso llegó la chota (policía) y como el señor había sido testigo de los eventos, la chota lo abordó y le preguntó:

Did you see what happened here?

“Yes”, contestó el señor.

Name? Dijo la chota, sacando al mismo tiempo una libreta para apuntar el nombre.

Y contestó el vato que aprendió inglés con un diccionario. “Almost Can See Fontains Pigeonhouses” o sea, Casimiro Fuentes Palomares.

Y el señor contestó, “I was stop there”. O sea, que él estaba parado allí.

“The wheel pushed the stone.” O sea, que la llanta aventó la piedra.

“The stone fly” O sea que la piedra voló.

“And hit the man in the one hundred” O sea, que le pegó al señor en la sien.

“The woman put the shout in the heaven” O sea, que puso el grito en el cielo.

“And the woman said…Old! Old! Old!” O sea, Viejo! Viejo! Viejo!

“Up, Up. Don`t whistle yourself” O sea, levántate, levántate, no te chifles.

“And the man never came back in yes again” O sea, que el hombre nunca volvió en sí otra vez.

Y todo destanteado la chota le preguntó:

And where’s the car?

Y contestó el señor….

“Peel rooster” O sea ¡Peló gallo!

15 Most Butchered Phrases in English

Our friends over at recently posted a fun article dealing with commonly misused phrases in English. This is a useful list that you can share with your students, especially if you are teaching English.You could also use this list by offering your students equivalent phrases for whichever language you teach. Many thanks to Anna Miller of OnlineDegree for sharing this great article with us!

15 Most Butchered Phrases in English

Monday, November 28, 2011

German Video: Fairy Tales

Chris here with some more German videos. Today I would like to share several videos I found which feature some classic German fairy tales. You can use these to supplement your lessons. If you have any other videos you would like to share, please feel free. Enjoy!


Max und Moritz

Hänsel und Gretel - Teil 1

Spanish: How do people celebrate Christmas in Mexico?

Hello everyone, Claudia Sadowski here. The Christmas season is fast approaching and since celebrations of all natures occur everywhere, I have decided to share with you how Christmas is celebrated in Mexico. Traditionally, Mexico is a country predominantly Catholic for at least 95% of the population. Therefore, many of the celebrations are religious oriented. Christmas is no exception. From the 16 to the 24 of December, people organize “Posadas” this word literally means “inn” or a place to stay. The story describes when Mary and Joseph were in their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and they were looking for a place to stay in order for their son Jesus to be born. Many people denied them the entrance to their home and finally one family let them in their home. However, this family allowed them to stay in their barn. Catholics and many other Christian religions believe that this is the place where Jesus was born. 

Nowadays, Mexico has a tradition to have a reenactment of this occurrence. People get organized well in advance and decide who will be hosting the Posada and what day within the dates of 16 to the 24 of December. Every one of the nine families has the opportunity to host the Pilgrims each night. Once they have everything organized, they start with the first neighbor. They have a procession of people who are already chosen by everyone in the neighborhood. They choose one person for each character: Mary, Joseph, an Angel and the Three Wise Man. The Angel leads the procession, Mary and Joseph follow, some times with a real baby, and also a real donkey as it was believed that Mary and Joseph traveled by a donkey. The Three Wise Man follow the pilgrims and at the end the rest of the people follow the entire procession.

The pilgrims and every single person participates by sing from house to house a very popular song that I am including here: Everyone of the participants holds a lit candle and they sing out loud, some sing inside the homes as a reply to the pilgrims to let them know that they will not let them in and at the end the host family also sing the acceptance to let them in. When the family finally receives the pilgrims, they enter the home and start to enjoy some delicious Mexican traditional meal that typically consists of tamales, ponche (a hot beverage that seems very much like a sweet tea with real fruit consisting typically of guava, sugarcane, tejocotes, tangerines, Jamaica flower, sweeten with piloncillo or brow sugar, and cinnamon sticks – the entire recipe varies from home to home but typically consists of these ingredients), I am including an example of a recipe for Mexican ponche: . The families usually offer champurrado (hot corn based beverage), buñuelos (like the traditional “elephant ears” you find in summer carnivals in the US), and little bags with candy (goodie bags) that are called Aguinaldos. In this Posada there is always at least one piñata for everyone to break. The piñata is filled with candy and seasonal fruit, usually oranges, tangerines, sugarcanes, and peanuts. Here is a video that portrays in short what I explained:

My classes usually see in the part of Cultura around this time of the year when we learn about Christmas around the Hispanic countries. We reenact the procession and I bring real candles and we go from door to door in three different classrooms. I provide my students with the lyrics of the Posadas in English and Spanish. We sing them in Spanish. We previously assign groups that will bring the food. One group is in charge of finding the recipe for Ponche and they make it and bring it to class. Another group buy flour tortillas and fry them and pour cinnamon and sugar before they place them to dry, this food is to represent buñuelos. Another group make a piñata out of a balloon and fill it with candy. The day of our Posada we break it. Then I usually bring the tamales for everyone to enjoy. This is a great tradition to start in your classroom, and students will always remember that part of Christmas in Mexico. 

Here is the link of the lyrics to ask for Posada in English and Spanish:

I found a link that explains how to make piñatas:

Here is a page where you can create your own vocabulary for Posadas. You can read it and listen to the phrases:

A crossword puzzle related to Posadas:

I hope that you have found this post to be helpful for your students.
¡Feliz Navidad! 

 (Mexican flag image form Wikipedia, all rights theirs)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

7 Simple Role Play Situations

Chris here with some more ideas for activities to wrap up the weekend. Below are seven basic role playing situations you can use in your classes. The topics are adaptable to practically any level. You can prioritize and setup the vocabulary and grammar for whichever language you teach. Let me know what you think or if you have any role playing situations of your own that you like to use in class. Enjoy!

You are planning a trip to Berlin (or another city)
  •  One Student plays the traveler and one plays the travel agent
  •  Traveler asks about price, departure, arrival times, general questions about the flight & accommodations, tourist activities

At the restaurant: Splitting the bill
  •  Two or more students are at a restaurant trying to split a bill
  •  Students must decide how much each will pay and what tender, who will leave a tip, etc
  •  One student can be added to play the waiter

You live are an American student who has just moved to (City X) to spend a year studying abroad

  • One student plays your neighbor in the student dorm/apartment/suite mate while the other is the new arrival

  •  The American students is a bit lost and asks several questions: where classes are, how to get to the various classes, where to shop for groceries etc

  •  The German student gives explanations and advice
You are moving and want to sell your furniture
  •  One or more students stop by and want to buy your furniture

  •  Students practice negotiating prices and furniture vocabulary
Students discuss shopping for cars

  • A small group of students is out shopping for cars

  •  Students discuss what type of cars and characteristics in a car they are looking for, as well as price range

  •  One student plays a salesperson who tries to convince students to buy a car
Students have just won the lottery
  •  Discuss what they would do with the money

  •  It can be required that they reach a consensus and must spend the money on something beneficial
Students act out a scene from a popular fairy tale, or create their own
  • Very open-ended role-playing situation where students can be creative

Saturday, November 26, 2011

News: Helpers needed for the BRAZ-TESOL

Would you like to help in the 13th BRAZ-TESOL National Convention?
The recruitment and selection process has started, it's your chance to attend the conference for free and do some networking while you help.

Friday, November 25, 2011

News: Rosetta Stone Black Friday Sale

Hello all, Chris here. I would just like to pass along that Rosetta Stone has a pretty good Black Friday sale going on with anywhere from $100-300 off of the software depending on which package you get. This is a great deal if you're looking to learn another language or brush up on one you're already learning. You can check out the deals here:

Rosetta Stone

Thursday, November 24, 2011

News: Some colleges move towards online language instruction

Hello everyone, Chris here with some more language learning news. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education reports on colleges that are featuring entirely online language classes. Advances in technology such as Web-conferencing software are increasingly expanding the possibilities of online language courses as programs face a lack of qualified instructors, pedagogical innovations, and budget cuts. You can read the full article in the link below:

Online Language Instruction

Does your school or institution feature online courses or course components? If so, we would love to hear about it!

What are some of the benefits and drawbacks to online language courses?

Leave us a comment!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday with friends and family!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

News: More Talk About the App Gap

Hello all, Chris here. Not too long ago I reported on the so-called "App Gap" that has been developing in schools. Today, I would like to share more about this issue with an excellent blog post brought to us by Jasmine Hall from Their articles is called "15 Telling Facts About the App Gap."

You can view their article here:

15 Telling Facts About the App Gap

We would also love to hear your comments or experiences with Apps in school settings.

News: Scotland cuts number of foreign language assistants

Scottish schools employ native speakers as part-time employees to help students learn foreign languages. However, in the past six years, the British Council Scotland has cut those positions by 80%. You can read more in the BBC article below:

Scotland cuts number of foreign language assistants

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Japanese: Vocabulary Practice

Hi all, Junko desu. Today I want to share an activity for practicing new vocabulary words.

Students choose new vocabulary words in the category of nouns, adjectives, verbs and so on depending on what they just learned (see the attached). Then, form question sentences using the new words. For example, if they just learned the word "sister", they could say "How many sisters do you have?" They should use the grammar points that they already know, or something that they learned in the previous chapter.

When they are done forming the questions, they go ask classmates the questions. When classmates answer the question with "yes", they write down the name of the person.

Follow this link for the attachment:

Japanese Vocabulary Practice

News: 2012 BRAZ-TESOL - Call for papers

The 13th BRAZ-TESOL National Convention ‘Proud to Be’ will be held at Faculdade CCAA in Rio de Janeiro between 16 and 19 July 2012.

A forum for professionals in the field of English Language Teaching, the convention promotes the discussion of practical and theoretical issues related to the teaching of English to speakers of other languages. It is a unique opportunity for BRAZ-TESOL members and international colleagues to get together, present their work and reflect on their practice.

The Academic Committee invites all BRAZ-TESOL members – teachers, teacher trainers, researchers, program administrators, and material writers – to submit proposals for presentations at the Convention.

The closing date for receipt of proposals is February 13, 2012

All proposals will be read by members of the Academic Committee and designated readers, and notification of acceptance will be sent by mid-April, 2012.

All presenters must be BRAZ-TESOL members, and must register for the convention before submitting a proposal.

Please note: Workshops, papers and talks at BRAZ-TESOL conventions are usually conducted in English; however, proposals for presentations in Portuguese will be considered.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Share Buttons Added

Chris here with a quick update. We've added share buttons to all of the popular social sites so sharing your favorite content from the Language Teacher's Toolbox is fast and easy. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

News: Studying abroad on the rise again

According to a recent report in USA Today, more U.S. students are earning credits overseas, and the number of foreign students studying at American colleges and universities also is on the rise. Americans going abroad for school increased 3.9%, according to the Institute of International Education, while foreign students in the U.S. climbed 4.7%. You can read more in the article below:

Study Abroad on the rise

News: Tech talk in Silicon Valley hones English skills

A Stanford instructor has decided to use Silicon Valley's lingo as a way to help skilled foreign workers improve their conversational English. The engineers and scientists, who come from all over the world to work in the Valley, learn terms such as "startup" and "venture captial crowd." The class, called "Silicon Valley Life" also teaches students concepts such as innovation.

You can read more in the article below:

Tech talk hones conversational English skills

News: Multilingual student wins Chinese language competition

Michael Becker became a standout foreign language student since high school in Connecticut, where he learned French, Spanish and Italian. After learning Chinese at Princeton University, Becker and 13 other students gathered in New York for the Hong Kong Cup Chinese Speech Contest. Becker credits his win to two months spent speaking only Chinese in Beijing. Becker's story further supports studying abroad and immersion contexts.

You can read more in the article below:

Multilingual student wins Chinese language competition

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Last ESL Speaker Series of 2011 !!!

Date: 11/18/2011

Time: 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Location: RAWL 1071

What’s the Problem? The Language Demands of Mathematical Word Problems for English Language Learners


Prof. Luciana de Oliveira

This presentation identifies some potential language demands of mathematical discourse for English Language Learners (ELLs). Using a word problem as example, the presenter offers a framework for analyzing word problems at the elementary level to help teachers draw ELLs’ attention to language.

The goals of this presentation are 1. To identify potential language demands of athematical discourse for ELLs; 2. To provide participants with a framework for analyzing word problems at the elementary level to help teachers draw ELLs’ attention to language; Participants learn to use a framework for identifying the language demands of word problems for ELLs.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

D'où viennent les herbes de Provence?

Class level: FR 101-202
Objective: To be able to distinguish the different accents of the French language.

News: Alternate Language? Try Java

Learning Java became a way for Baltimore-area father Jeff Williams to teach his son, Chance, a new language. Chance was struggling in Spanish when his father suggested something that would appeal to his son's love of technology. Subsequently, Chance's knowledge of Java took off. You can read more in the Venture Beat article below:

Alternate Language? Try Java

News: College students talks about "flipping the switch" to fluency

Marielle Foster, a Minnesota college student, writes about her experiences living abroad and the challenges of grasping the nuances of a second language.  Marielle relates several useful strategies for progressing towards fluency such as focusing on key areas of grammar and attacking those until you have learned them as well as not trying to "overdo" it by trying to sound too much like a native speaker right away.

You can read the full story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune article below:

"Flipping the switch" to fluency

News: Military translation company tries to attract people to a dangerous job

Mission Essential Personnel is the military's biggest supplier of interpreters for the Afghanistan conflict. They teach Americans how to speak a difficult language called Pashto. Upon mastering the language, employees stand to make well over $100k a year. The company has trained thousands of people although around 400 have been killed, wounded or gone missing on the job. You can read more in the Oakland Tribune article below:

Military translation company tries to attract people to dangerous job

Thursday, November 10, 2011

German: Adjective Endings Chart

Hello all, Chris here with another handy download for German. Click the link below for a pdf listing German adjective endings. Enjoy!

German Adjective Endings

Monday, November 7, 2011

News: California School District Creating Dual Language Programs for all Schools

A recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the National City School District is close to implementing a bilingual education program available to students at every school by year's end. The San Diego area district now employs a 90-10 split between English and Spanish. For more information you can view the full article below:

California School District Creating Dual Language Programs

Saturday, November 5, 2011

News: II CE/LEAP Reminder

Competencias y estrategias docentes en el contexto de Asia-Pacífico

24 y 25 de noviembre de 2011
Instituto Cervantes de Manila

18 de NOVIEMBRE de 2011

News: LTSIG Webinars

Hello All,

The LTSIG Webinar series started today with 'Teacher Development Online'. The Learning Technologies SIG holds regular online workshops (or 'webinars') which are open to the general public. These webinars take place in an online video conferencing platform (Adobe Connect) and last approximately one hour.

The webinars feature well-known and experienced practitioners talking about technology in English language teaching, and are of interest to all teachers. If you missed today's you can still join for the rest.

You don't need to sign up in advance. Simply go to the webpage 10-15 minutes before the webinar is due to start, and click on the link provided with the webinar description to join the video conferencing platform. Here is the link for more information:

The series continues as follows:

Sunday 18 December 2011: Mobile Learning (with Caroline Moore)

Sunday 15 January 2012: Cool Activities with IWBs (with Barbara Gardner)

Sunday 19 February 2012: Implementing ICT in an Institution (with Lauren Brumfield)

Sunday 25 March 2012: Integrating Collaborative Projects with ICTs (with Shelly Terrell)

Sunday 15 April 2012: E-safety (with Carol Rainbow)

Sunday 20 May 2012 (tbc): Using Social Media with Learners (with Petra Pointer)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

German: Interview Bingo (Futur)

Hello all, Chris here with another downloadable activity. This time we have the first of our interview Bingo activities. This one is designed to help students practice the future tense in German. You can download the activity in pdf form from the link below. Stay tuned for more activities!

Interview Bingo (Futur)

News: Jewish & Arab students in Israel learn side-by-side

Hello all, Chris here with some more language news. Hand in Hand schools strive to ease tensions between two ethnic groups in the Middle East (Arabs & Jews) by having high-school students from different cultures attend classes together. In the schools, the students are learning each others' languages. The program is currently on a small U.S. tour to promote its efforts. You can read more about this unique program in the article link below:

Jewish & Arab students in Israel learn side-by-side

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

French: Une caricature de BD (bande dessinée)

Level: FR 101-301
Topic: Cartoon. French.
Politics. Current events.
Objective: This can be used to stimulate students' interest in interpretation
of the French sense of humour, built vocabulary and a perfect set up for conversations as a pair or group work.

German: Berufe Word Search

Hello all, Chris here with the next downloadable activity for German. This time it is a Word Search for Berufe vocabulary. Enjoy!

Berufe Word Search

Berufe Word Search (Answer Key)

Teaching Tip: Enhancing Textbook Stories with Role-Playing

Hello all, Chris here with a quick tip to make the stories typically found in textbooks come alive. I have recently started having my students act out the scenes in the stories of our textbook. In general, language textbooks feature one or more stories per chapter. Often they are presented in a cartoon or comic form to provide a visual of the action. Rather than having students just read the stories for themselves, read them aloud in class or listen to a recording of the story, I have started having students take the roles of the characters in the story and then come up in front of class and act the story out as they read them to the class. This can be quite humorous as students relish the chance to act and show off in front of their classmates. This also has the benefit of enhancing students' attention to the text and it allows for an easier discussion of the text as well as focusing on new or difficult vocabulary. You can also raise the students' awareness of the new vocabulary and how it is used in context as well as new grammar.

I encourage you to try this format with your students. If you are teaching with a book that does not provide any pictures to go along with stories, it is also a great opportunity to have students draw their own (brief) storyboards. This will also serve as a demonstration of their comprehension of the text.


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